Something was and is different about Homo sapiens that H Neanderthals and H erectus did not have. Each of those cousins had hundreds of thousands of years, under varied geographical and climatic conditions, to respond to changing circumstances by taming plants and animals.
For new concepts to emerge, something physical had to change within the hominid, and this was most likely some kind of central neurological creation. When we entertain the idea that the change in central neurons was an increased ability to create new synapses, so that each neuron could make more connections with its neighbors, this could be affected by simple genetic mutation. In other words, chemistry dictated biology. If this is the crucial turning point, it still begs the question as to why Sapiens was blessed with it and not his long-successful and very closely related cousins? A gene is a chemical point on a string of foci that make up a chromosome and are liable to random quantum relationship changes (mutations) that can help or hurt an individual. So there could have been a key difference between the genetic versatility of the hominids, and Sapiens stepped into a brand new form of adaptability.
The Difference Between Hunger and Fear of Hunger
Hunger is not a concept, it is an animal drive, fueled by instinct, which is to say that it is based on automatic neurological reflexes. The driving force for new concepts like those necessary for agriculture would have been available and the same for all hominids- fear, and economy of energy (aka laziness); fear of hunger and not surviving, and finding the easiest way to find food, respectively. Hunger would have been a pressure on all hominids, but the more capable a species was of being aware of time and the future, the more cognizant they would be aware of the needs and fears. So in this way, increased consciousness, possibly attained by increased ability to create central synapses, would go hand-in-hand with the advent of agriculture. This new innovation would have been very much its own reward, not only through relief of hunger and diminishing fear of future hunger, but the improved nutrition would have allowed for the improved types and amounts of nutritional building blocks that make up neurons. Simply packing more neurons into a skull could lead to a bigger sized head at birth, which could be a disastrous evolution. Making better neurons, and having more interconnections might have been the path that has made all the difference.
Why All at the Same Time?
So, Sapiens had something tangibly different that his genetic cousins would likely never attain- a million years of history shows this. That gateway of change, agriculture, was entered by Sapiens in various parts of the world fairly simultaneously, and in some cases without the possibility of communication between groups that were geographically far apart. Besides the genetic predisposition to new concepts, there had to be some kind of trigger to start agriculture- either a latency (also built into the genes) or a universal exposure that flipped a switch in all members of that small group of Sapiens that left Africa, such as a burst of cosmic rays that triggered a gene. After over 50,000 years that Sapiens had ventured out of Africa, what other causes would there be for people in China, Mesopotamia, Israel, and Mexico to all start domesticating animals and plants for food in a time slot 5-10 thousand years ago?
Evolution Loves Variability
Even with that universal trigger, spread out across all tribes of Sapiens over the Earth, some did not fully embrace agriculture, such as the Aboriginals in Australia, the Inuit in northern Canada, and the Hatzig of Tanzania. All peoples of the world have higher consciousness, all have entertained ideas about taming food, yet there still exists a wide variability in choosing between hunter-gathering or domesticating food sources. For those who chose to tame their food, many other changes in society emerged, changes that are difficult to embrace if you are a member of a tribe that never took that first step.